Kalev Yacht Club in Pirita

Pirita tee 17, Tallinn

Pirita has been a popular summer resort for centuries. In particular, Pirita began to gain popularity in the 20th century. At the beginning of the year, construction began on the western bank of the Pirita River, where Karl Burman was built in 1911-12. The Kalev Community House, which was destroyed in World War II, was designed in the 1920s. Peeter Tarvas, in the “Estonian Project”, probably a collective, designed a new clubhouse – the Yacht Club – in 1949, commissioned by Kalev.

The main building of the yacht club is a two-story wooden house with a sled roof on the bank of the Pirita River, connected to the gallery by a three-story tower. There is also a large terrace on the riverside, which is bordered on the west by a low limestone wall. The building was one of the most modern in its time, built in a functionalist style, evidenced by round windows, clean wall surfaces and a modest décor of machine aesthetics. The yacht club was built at a time when the pre-Stalinist ambiguity in architecture remained, and architects had the opportunity to use in their projects the functionalism and representationalist traditions that gained popularity in Estonia, which became the subject of severe criticism a few years later. The windows of the tower are functionalistically designed with both ribbon and round illuminator windows. Among other things, the architect has taken the example of the much-acclaimed Pärnu Beach Hotel, which was completed a decade earlier. The layout of the building is asymmetric (due to the tower, porch, and gallery), but the layout of the rooms is largely symmetrical. The building is divided into two wings. The sea-wing has a club hall on the first floor with a veranda and kitchen, and a smaller meeting room on the second floor. Office, dressing, and club rooms are located on the first and second floor of Pirita Road. The main building has a low limestone plinth and a low sloping roof. On the eastern side of the plinth is a cornerstone with lettering – VSÜ Kalev Yacht Club. There are different floors on the board – on the ground floor and the upright table. The building is divided by doors and windows of different sizes. The gallery, which connects the two parts of the building, stands on the pillars emphasizing the airiness. The tower is accessible from the gallery and the side of Pirita Road. The main building is also decorated with a terrace and a balcony. An important element is a two-story lobby with a large window surface that overlooks the river. The original design has preserved a table with chairs, probably designed by Peeter Tarvas himself on the second floor. The original color scheme of the building provided a light-colored board on the ground floor and dark details on the upper floor (window frames, etc.). The interior has lost its original look over the years, but little has changed in appearance and volume.

1987 a. commissioned the Kalev Yacht Club, commodore Sven Kochberg, ordered a renovation project from a student design bureau newly created with the Estonian National Institute of Art. The project was carried out by the architect Enn Laansoo. the only member of the Bureau. Probably the reason why the project was commissioned from the student office was architect Peeter Tarvas, who was then vice-rector of the Art Institute and a supporter of the student’s bureau. During the extensive renovation of 1988-89, changes were made to the interior layout of the premises and a tower was built higher and supported by metal bearing structure. Interior designer Juta Lember was a member of the yacht club.

In the late 90s, Enn Laansoo, a member of the yacht club, volunteered to design a new storeroom building, which is built.


Yacht Club

Student Architectural Bureau of the Estonian National Institute of Art 1987

arch. E.Laansoo, interior designer Juta Lember


About 1987. renovation project

1987 Perestroika begins in the Soviet Union, the Cultural Council of Creative Societies is established, and the IME proposal for the full self-sufficiency of the entire Estonian SSR is born. The streets are filled with waffle and candy cane vendors, and the Kadaka Market is gaining momentum. With the winds of innovation, opportunities for architects must also arrive. Like private agencies in the west? At that time, I did not know that this dream would have to wait another four years. The spirit of the 1987a era promoted social ownership combined with personal initiative. I proposed to the Estonian National Institute of Art to establish a student design bureau at the Faculty of Architecture. The idea was coordinated with Rector Jaan Vares, Vice-Rector Peeter Tarvas, Head of the Department of Architecture Helmut Oruvee, Head of the Department of Construction Jaan Rohusaar, Secretary of the Komsomol Indrek Samussenko, perhaps the entire leadership of the Institute of Art was aware. The office was launched, the only employees were me, the biggest (possibly the only?) Project – the Kalev Yacht Club renovation project. Where did such an order go down in the office without history – I suspect Peeter Tarvas’s recommendation. I had no time to think about it at the time, neither Peeter Tarvas himself nor the client, Commodore Sven Kochberg, made any mention of the reasons for the order.

When designing the project I was on my own, contrary to the notion that Peeter Tarvas was actively supervising me. The reason is simple, Peeter Tarvas died on March 23, 1987, almost immediately after work began. Also, to think that Peeter Tarvas, as a 7o-year-old senior, would have bothered to be involved in nose design again, because, at this age, it is a long-standing fact that there is more to life than work. I remember our meetings – his special laugh and rather a meager talk, I don’t remember anything related to the design of the yacht club. Now, more than thirty years later, this state of mind seems to support my last point.

But this talk of coaching or not coaching does not diminish the value of the architecture of the Kalev Yacht Club building by Peeter Tarvas in my eyes. I look at the historic photo of the northwestern facade of the newly built yacht club and wonder how harmonious, peaceful the building is. Like a hint of high quality of life before wartime, independent Estonia. The Soviet power, the cult of Stalin, the repression next to this building are like phenomena from another planet. If I add my very personal relationship with Pirita Bridge and Kalev Yacht Club more generally (read Regat House Business Center) , there was a self-evident sense of deep respect in the architecture of a yacht club building. It never occurred to me to “rescue an old-fashioned decaying house with its ingenious new and better architectural solutions,” which would have been more typical of a young and world-conquering architect’s soul.

But there is also the possibility of a “subtle conspiracy” by Peter Taras to explain the mystery of this mysterious smile. It would be a wise man’s wise plan to lead me to act in the “desired spirit” without me realizing it. Namely, I could to use copies of the original design drawings, up to the specification of the doors and windows. Let’s imagine that Peeter Tarvas called a house across the street, some acquaintances working in the Eesti Projekt, and arranged to make copies of the drawings of the original project. In reality, the original drawings were very helpful. I put kalka (semi-transparent paper) on the original drawing and immediately the new solution started to appear, with a black ink pencil, line by line. That is how this solution, which was subordinated to the original idea, was born.

But this method also had a problem. Namely, no construction supervision took place during construction, probably it was not customary this time. For prosaic reasons, Peeter Tarvas could not go to construction töö. The contracting authority therefore acted in its own right. Let’s say the color scheme that comes out is striking to my eyes. Years later, I came to the yacht club to inquire Sven Kochberg how the end result of the construction, is it all right? Sven said in good spirits that everything was fine. I liked it and it felt soothing until …. Sven started describing the furnishing of the rooms through the windows on the second floor, because the cabinet doors were too narrow. I was really scared. Today, I think this could be one of the professional stories that I would like to talk with Peeter Tarvas about when we meet once in the expanses of eternity. I copied the door specs one by one ….! Did I make a mistake?